The Grimm fairy tale ``Brother and Sister'' is transported to turn-of-the-century New York City in this richly comic story whose opening sets the tone--``Once upon a time, in a strange land called Brooklyn. . . .'' In charmingly sly prose, Levine ( All the Lights in the Night ) tells of the siblings Myron and Sadie, gifted dressmakers enslaved to an evil witch-cum-sweatshop-owner. When they attempt to escape, the vindictive hag changes Myron into a mouse--a garment-district Stuart Little with a nose for fabric bargains--but steadfast Sadie keeps him in her pocket as they flee to live in a hand-sewn tent on the Coney Island boardwalk. Levine's finely crafted text is peppered with flippant, tongue-in-cheek humor. ``She was last year's news now,'' Levine says of the witch before dispatching her in the tale's happy ending. A delight, too, is the proto-Donald Trump real-estate tycoon (named simply ``the Tycoon''), who rescues the comely Sadie and her brother. The story is ideally complemented by Guevara's ( Emmett's Snow ball ) riotous pencil, acrylic and gouache illustrations. The artist's vivid palette recalls 19th-century poster art, and her eye for detail is masterful--laundry zigzags across tenement alleys; the witch watches her spell unfold from the corner of a frame; buttons pop on Myron's mouse outfit when he is restored to his normal shape. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-- A ``modern'' version of the Brothers Grimm's ``Little Brother and Little Sister.'' Levine sets his story in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn, where two orphans run away from the wicked old witch who adopted them. Myron, a gifted tailor, and his seamstress sister, Sadie, are tired of being exploited by their foster mother and flee. The young man innocently drinks bewitched water and is transformed into a mouse. Sadie creates a magnificent fabric tent on the boardwalk where she and brother/mouse live and work. A series of quirky, but enchanted, events lead to Sadie's marriage to a handsome Real Estate Tycoon and Myron's change from mousehood back to manhood. Certainly, magical changes and happily-ever-after endings are the stuff of favorite fairy tales, yet, despite the right ingredients and the amusing premise, this update doesn't offer much child appeal. Most youngsters will not be familiar with the Grimm's tale, so they will not be able to appreciate the allusions to the original or much of the intended humor. It is also doubtful that they will recognize the place and time period. The colorful full- and double-page paintings do help bring the story and setting to life in a lighthearted manner. An additional purchase for those collections with a great demand for folktale variants. --Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI
Janice Del Negro
Levine's fractured version of the Grimms' tale "Little Brother and Little Sister" relocates the story to Brooklyn and recasts it with a brother and sister, Myron and Sadie, who are fashion designers. Escaping from an evil witch, who has held them captive because of their fashion expertise, proves difficult. She follows them with a nasty potion that, despite Sadie's best efforts, Myron drinks. Turned into a mouse, he slips into Sadie's pocket. They come to a boardwalk by the sea (Coney Island?), where they settle down until a "Real Estate Tycoon" discovers the talented Sadie (and mouse Myron) and moves them into his mansion. A successful career for Sadie and marriage plans ensue. On the eve of the wedding, the evil witch seeks revenge, but marvelous Myron foils the villain. "And the wedding dress? Magic!" Humorously illustrated in watercolors loaded with period detail, this modern folktale variant is appealingly and stylishly told.